Napoleon, a bio-pic by Ridley Scott, parles-tu Francais?

24 July 2023

Napoleon, a bio-pic by Ridley Scott, film still

Still from Napoleon, a film by Ridley Scott.

British filmmaker Ridley Scott takes on the life of French military leader, and former emperor of the French Empire, Napoleon Bonaparte, in his new bio-pic feature, Napoleon. American actor Joaquin Phoenix stars in the lead role, along with Vanessa Kirby as Josephine, Napoleon’s wife, and Catherine Walker portraying the doomed Marie-Antoinette.

Although the majority of characters in Napoleon are French, the cast speaks in English, or at least they do in the film’s trailer. One detail though that has rankled some film commentators, is Phoenix’s seemingly unabashed American accent, a stark contrast to the predominantly British accents employed by the rest of the cast.

I can’t say I detected Phoenix’s American accent, or any particular accent for that matter, when I watched the trailer. I was more focussed on trying to comprehend what Phoenix’s Napoleon was saying, full stop, something Allegra Frank, writing for The Daily Beast, also picked up on:

It takes until the 35-second mark for us to hear Napoleon speak at all, with the trailer mostly cutting to him slightly parting his lips and staring ahead. But then we hear Phoenix mumble quietly for the first time, while facing down a rival army: “I promise you a billion successes.” At least, I think he says “billion;” his take on Napoleon is terrible at enunciating.

Napoleon opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday 23 November 2023, according to Flicks Australia.


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